In short Sanisaar and Sports Education Performance combine their prevention services to provide a “complete circle of care.” Together with their teams, the Managing Directors Robin Kiefer and Torsten Schuh (SPE) support private individuals, professional and amateur athletes, clubs and teams as well as companies and government agencies in the German Saarland region. Back pain represents a complex and challenging issue they encounter on a daily basis.
“We are giving people what they need”
Prevention for the back
From Bauerfeind Life Magazin
Together, the two sports enthusiasts from the German Saarland region support private individuals and competitive athletes as well as sports clubs and companies in their health management. With their teams, they offer a 360-degree service for the musculoskeletal system at two locations, including gait, walking and posture analyses, individual and small group training sessions, physical therapy and orthotics.
Robin Kiefer is an expert orthotist. He grew up with this profession in his parents’ medical retail store and has ever since been passionate about motion analysis, even before starting his formal training. Three years ago, he became the managing director of Sanisaar, a medical and orthopedic supply retailer with 15 employees located on the health campus in Merzig. Torsten Schuh is a sports economist and an experienced coach. He has been promoting young competitive athletes for many years, and he has been the owner of Sport Education Performance (SPE) in St. Ingbert, located about 55 kilometers away, for several months now. Other members of his team include a senior physical therapist and three sports scientists. Together, Sanisaar and SPE offer what they call a “complete circle of care”, which they hope to make available to everybody, also beyond competitive sports.
Beyond isolated measures
“We want to consider the whole person,” explains Torsten Schuh. “In cases of poor posture or recurring complaints, individual measures often have only a limited effect, and you don’t see any real progress. What people need is an interconnected system – a comprehensive strategy, coordinated with the physician and the customer, to address the causes and secondary conditions effectively and sustainably.” Robin Kiefer adds: “And this strategy always needs to be personalized. It’s not always a foot orthosis or a support that helps. Sometimes it takes more exercises, sometimes it takes both, sometimes it takes both at certain intervals.”
Word of the high quality of their service has spread throughout Saarland. They always hand out the assessment report of their analyses to the customers to take along to their doctor’s appointment. Customers now also come to see us based on the recommendation of their doctors who value the depth of data and customized coordination of possible products to inform and match their treatment decisions. In competitive sports, Sanisaar and SPE support individual athletes as well as handball and football clubs such as the female team of 1. FC Saarbrücken or the youth of SV 07 Elversberg. In the field of occupational health management (OHM), they help organize health days at the workplace initiated by health insurance companies, respond to direct company inquiries and offer their services to companies in all industries in the private and public sectors, such as the German Armed Forces.
“We place a lot of emphasis on keeping in touch with science.”Robin Kiefer
For business clients, their service process includes a “risk analysis” of the workplace. If no information is available from health insurance providers or other organizations, the two prevention experts first offer to meet for a consultation. During this meeting, they gather information about typical workforce activities in advance and – if possible – accompany individual employees to see their equipment, get to know work flows and identify potential patterns of strain that adversely affect the musculoskeletal system. “At a large DIY store, employees worked on hard floors all day, sometimes wearing heavy work safety shoes, or they had to stand a lot. This will take its toll on the feet, so it was clear that we had to make this the focus of our attention during the checks,” explains Torsten Schuh. In the service sector, on the other hand, they tend to encounter issues such as prolonged sitting and neglected breaks to move around and stretch. Here, the focus is on posture analysis.
OHM as an opportunity
For the checks, the employees come to the biomechanics laboratories of Sanisaar and SPE. Alternatively, Robin Kiefer and Torsten Schuh carry out the measurements on site using portable equipment. The types of preventive measures they recommend are based on the data and interviews and vary from case to case, depending on pre-existing conditions, specific strain and practicality. This could be physical therapy, targeted training or a leave-behind exercise sheet. Another option are work safety foot orthoses and supports as well as other products and services that are not part of their own offering, such as height-adjustable desks or yoga. “It’s about what makes sense,” Robin Kiefer emphasizes. The advice they give allows people to better understand their body. For many, this is an eye-opening experience. “They start understanding the correlations. What is probably causing my discomfort? Do I notice stress-related issues? What can I do?” The leadership team also starts developing ideas about what they can do to promote the health of their employees. Not only has this been demonstrated to be directly related to productivity and corporate success. “It also motivates people and fosters employee retention,” they both point out.
The spine – a recurring issue
“Problems with the back, and especially the lower back, are the biggest issue in our everyday lives,” confirm Robin Kiefer and Torsten Schuh. A multitude of triggers can be found at work, during sports and leisure time activities, and they are all interlinked, which makes the spine a complex target for prevention.
“When a patient comes to see me, I first take time to listen,” says Robin Kiefer. “We want people to tell us about their aches and pains.” Like Karin G.1, who has an appointment at Sanisaar this Thursday morning. The alternative practitioner complains of occasional pain in the hips and back following a healed thoracic vertebral body fracture that also involved the ribs. “I feel a pulling sensation down to the pelvis and the sacroiliac joint during strain or when turning,” she reports. For a closer look, Robin Kiefer accompanies her to the analysis room, where his “bioteam” comprising Linda Wilhelm and Johannes Hell awaits her. The two young sports scientists focus on biomechanics. Just like their boss, their specialist field includes gait and posture analysis, and they keep up to date through regular training at Kaiserslautern Technical University.
Walking, running, standing to generate in-depth data
Accompanied by the bioteam, Karin G. passes three stations, starting with the videographic gait analysis. In conjunction with the foot pressure measurement, it provides information about inappropriate stresses and instabilities in the entire musculoskeletal system. For the measurement, she walks back and forth a few times on the eight-meter-long sketched out surface that features a measurement plate in its core. Johannes Hell records the foot and walking movements on the computer and recognizes the first indications of an uneven pelvis in the values. Next up is a gait analysis on the curved treadmill, where markers help to assess the ankle, knee and hip joints. The process is rounded off with a posture check to measure the pelvis and spine. The results are then evaluated, correlated and discussed. “In patients with a sedentary lifestyle, for example, we often observe a shortening of the hip flexors,” reports Linda Wilhelm. “This can manifest in low back pain. In these cases, the SacroLoc pelvic brace can help because it relieves the sacroiliac joints and promotes a straight posture.” They also give this recommendation to Karin G. to discuss this with her physician and remind her to pick up her mobilization exercises again.
“Prevention is a journey”
In addition to exercises, the range of services includes physiotherapy and individual or small group training sessions with a maximum of four participants. At SPE in St. Ingbert, Torsten Schuh’s team focuses on muscle development and mobility. Their client base comprises many competitive and ambitious recreational athletes. Senior physiotherapist Alexander Böer, who can look back on ten years of professional experience at the Saarbrücken Olympic Training Center, recommends regular functional analyses, also as a preventive measure: “This is important to prevent the back from acting up when it counts, for example before a tournament,” he explains. He sees Mark Lamsfuß, two-time European Champion and World Championship bronze medalist in badminton in 2022, about twice a week. Racket sports challenge the stability of the entire torso due to repetitive motion sequences as well as high loads and speeds. Alexander Böer palpates the back for possible tension to identify any muscular imbalance. Stabilization exercises on the gym ball or on the rotation machine complement the program. And if the lumbar spine does hurt occasionally – as it did some time ago – Mark Lamsfuß can fall back on the LumboTrain back support prescribed by his doctor. With its circular compression, it helps adopt a better posture and relieves the lumbar area. “Prevention is a journey,” Robin Kiefer and Torsten Schuh know from experience. It takes small steps, constant checks and many adjustments. But it pays off to invest the time.
These two have your back: LumboTrain and SacroLoc
Back pain can have various causes. The LumboTrain back support alleviates pain in the lumbar region. Its circular compression helps to relieve and stabilize the lumbar spine. An anatomically shaped massage pad with incorporated nubs exerts an intermittent compression massage during movement, helping to relieve tension and activate the back muscles.
The SacroLoc pelvic brace helps with back pain due to problems with the sacroiliac joint (SI joint). It stabilizes the pelvis, has been proven to influence nutation movement in the SI joint and relieves the local ligaments. Clinical studies have shown that it primarily realizes its therapeutic potential during dynamic situations and long-term use. When SI joint patients wear the SacroLoc for several weeks, they show improved postural stability and an abnormal gait pattern. The result: significant pain relief and an increased quality of life.
1 Name changed by the editors
Images: Olaf Nagel